Bordeaux & Cité du Vin

Cité Du Vins

​Mr N whisked me away to Bordeaux, the City of Wine, for our anniversary this year.  It was a very sweeping visit of just over 24 hours but that didn’t stop us cramming as much in as possible.

We arrived in Bordeaux City (an hour and a half from Gatwick) at 5.30pm on Friday night.  We headed straight to our hotel (Boutique Hotel) which is a small yet perfectly formed hotel famous for its wine bar.

After checking in, we wasted no time at all getting to the bar and chatting to the Sommelier – Martin.    The wine bar at Boutique is interesting as they don’t tend to share their wine list.  Martin will come and ask you what your tastes are and what kind of wine would you like.  He then comes over with his suggestions.  All wines he will offer you are €7 a glass so you know you’re not going to break the bank. We had four drinks (two each) and they were all exceptional:

  • Me – White Bordeaux from Graves, 2015:  50/50 Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion:  clear, crisp, mineral, high acid and very, very drinkable.  I don’t usually like a high Semillion blend but this was wine making at it’s best – allowing the herbaciousness of the Sauvignon through and coupled with the high acidity and richness of the Semillion – very moreish indeed.
  • Mr N – Pessac-Leognan 2013 (cool year) – Merlot heavy, smooth, rich and not too spicy

We then moved away from Bordeaux wines and ventured south:

  • Me:  Viognier, Rhone Premier Cru:  I thought it was a Chablis!  It was creamy, rich and a little honeyed on the end and quite possibly one of the best Viogniers I have ever tasted.  They can have a rather odd after taste which puts people off but, for this one (photo below) – this was melt in the mouth
  • Mr N:  Syrah, St Joseph (Northern Rhone).  This was also a real treat – unmistakably Syrah but with more body, roundness and fruit than anything I’ve tasted before (photo below).

Reluctantly, we left the wine bar as we had much to accomplish in our short trip!  We did think we’d make it back later but it was already 9pm and it closes at 11pm.

​We headed to the banks of the Garonne where I had hoped to see the beautiful Water Mirror in action.  Unfortunately, as it was so cold, it wasn’t on (it would have iced over) so, instead of the mirror, we looked instead at the lights on the imposing Place de la Bourse and the beautiful Pont de Pierre – the first bridge across the Garonne.

From here we headed through the winding, cobbled streets to our recommended restaurant of the night:  La Brasserie Bordelaise.  Tables of meat and walls of wine greet you as you enter through a thick red velvet curtain.  It is always busy and, in true French style, there are tables everywhere – tables of people eating all manner of meats, cheeses, breads and, of course, drinking wine. 

We were welcomed with a drink and some tapas at the bar before a table could be found.  Once seated, we were served some pate and bread and looked at the wine list which was incredibly long (12 pages, over 300 wines).  Due to lack of any information on the wines, the list was incredibly overwhelming.  We spoke to the resident sommelier to get some advice and finally settled on a Bordeaux Superior from 2011 from Chateaux Mirefleurs which, at €23 was exceptional value.  Easy drinking, Merlot-forward red which went very well with my Beef Bourgogne and Mr N’s steak.  With absolutely no room for the delicious looking desserts, we left there at around 11.30pm when people were still being seated for dinner.

We went for another stroll through the streets of Bordeaux to try and walk off the incredibly indulgent dinner and ended up getting to bed about 1am.  Bordeaux is a safe city and, in January, is actually very quiet – except for a few late bars which we walked past, the streets were very empty at night.

Le Cité Du Vin

​Bordeaux is a small, flat city where the locals are friendly and you can find tourists and locals alike mingling in bars and in the streets, walking and hiring bikes.  We started our Saturday with a quick trip to ‘Paul’ for breakfast, a saunter past the imposing and beautiful Monument Aux Girondins and then a leisurely 40 minute walk along the river to the Cité Du Vin.

​Opened in 2016, this is just another step in the regeneration of Bordeaux both as a city and as a centre of wine.  New world wines are far more approachable for the consumer with fruit driven flavours, easy to decipher varietal labels and very competitive pricing and this has led to a move away from the former wine centre of the world.   By regenerating the city (a project which was started ten years ago and is still ongoing), the powers that be are hoping to see a resurgence in interest for the wines of Bordeaux.  The Cité Du Vin museum is another step in that direction.
Beautiful from the outside, the building is meant to re-enact the flow of wine being poured into a decanter.  Its gliding lines are actually very pleasing to look at.  Inside, the foyer is quite vast, concrete and sterile, but the gift shop is full of interesting (and expensive) items and the bar is quite welcoming!  To get to the main exhibition (€20 each for adults), you go up a winding staircase flooded with light.  Once at the top you collect your cyber-men-esque audio guide and head on in.

Covering all areas of wine: history, production, climate, grape varieties, winemakers, marketing – the Cité du Vin is exactly that – a museum/exhibition/monument to everything grape. Highly interactive, it’s great for little kids and big kids alike.  They have spent a lot of time making the museum very accessible to all – so much so, in some articles you’ll see it described as a theme park (it’s not, there are no rides!).  It is surprising though (for me anyway) just how accessible it is for the whole family.  Touch screens, interactive globes and maps, images you move with the float of your hand, figurines which talk you through history – they’re definitely not marketing to children but there is absolutely an aspect which leans towards making it as child-friendly as possible (there are also lots of books for children in the gift shop about grapes and wine). 
​​One part of the museum which is definitely not for children is the bar on the eight floor.  All glass, with wine bottles for a ceiling, the bar is a place to try a glass of wine (included in the entrance fee) and watch over Bordeaux.  A very quiet space when we were there but I imagine in the height of summer it wouldn’t be so relaxing – we managed to spend about 40 minutes there just looking at the views, drinking our wine (we chose Sauternes) and basking in the sunlight streaming through the windows.

The rest of our day was spent walking back along the river, having some lunch and then heading to a few more wine bars.  Those of note:

Wine More Time
L’Autre Petit Bois
And my favourite:  Aux Quatre Coins Du Vin

In the last one, all the wines are from enomatic machines so no queuing at the bar!  You can also try small tasters of very expensive wines without the hefty price tag.  It can be overwhelming though so I would always recommend speaking to the staff.  Don’t be shy.  Most of them are lovely, knowledgeable and passionate about what they do and would love to recommend stuff for you to try.  We had a good chat with the staff and ended up trying some amazing wines and, as Aux Quatre Coins Du Vin has a shop as well, we ended up bringing one of them home with us too (the wine, not the staff!)


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